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Here's what's happening in accessibility news. We provide these news briefs for your information and convenience, and we don't endorse or recommend any of these publications or products. Check back for updates every weekday.

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New window: Removes Accessibility Overlay In Response to WordPress Community’s Concerns

November 28, 2022, WP Tavern: has removed its accessibility overlay, a recent addition to the company’s website that raised concerns with the WordPress community and the broader community of accessibility professionals. The overly was powered by EqualWeb, a product which claims to provide automated compliance with accessibility standards but doesn’t address inaccessibility at the root of the problem. WordPress Community Team leaders requested a meeting with the company and were able to persuade them to take the overlay down and focus on direct improvements to the platform. WordPress community organizer Angela Jin reported that their director of engineering and other team members were “very receptive to our feedback.”

New window: Which WCAG Testing Standards Are Essential for Compliance

November 28, 2022, Publicist Paper: When a business fills out a VPAT with WCAG testing, they aim for one of the three distinctive levels of compliance. Level A is the least product and AAA is the highest compliance level. Although, the acceptable accessibility level is AA and mostly aimed at business organizations. Ensuring compliance with WCAG is essential because it is a framework used to abide by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). ADA is a civil rights law and Title III of ADA considers websites aspublic accommodation. To put it simply, a business website must be accessible to everyone despite their disability. To ensure compliance with ADA, you must understandWCAG standards.

New window: For disabled shoppers, some Cyber Monday deals are out of reach

November 28, 2022, MarketPlace: Cyber Monday has become one of the busiest — and most lucrative — online shopping days of the year. The National Retail Federation estimates that almost 64 million people will be looking for deals today. But for shoppers with disabilities, it can be a lot harder to take advantage of sales and promotions online. A significant number of the biggest retail websites are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which lay out best practices to help make sites easier to navigate by people who are, for example, blind or hearing-impaired.

New window: Travel sector urged not to consider disabled travellers as ‘afterthought’

November 28, 2022, Travel Weekly: The travel sector has been urged not to consider accessibility as an afterthought as research showed how disabled people face paying a £242 premium for travel insurance. The Valuable 500, global collective of chief executives committed to disability inclusion, claimed the financial penalty of insurance that disabled customers face to go on holiday is another example of how people with disabilities are overlooked and underserved by the travel industry. Disabled people have to factor in extra costs when planning holidays, and face discriminatory insurance quotes to ensure their needs are covered, new research by the group found. The survey findings come at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is placing undue pressure on those with disabilities, who already face significant additional costs in their day-to-day lives. The research also considered other barriers disabled tourists face when travelling. These include a broad range of considerations, including time inequity, digital accessibility, a lack of disabled representation, lack of inclusive design, and lack of knowledge of disability and how to meet the needs of customers with disabilities.

New window: UC Berkeley responds to complaint that it failed to make online content ADA compliant

November 26, 2022, MSN Local News: The University of California at Berkeley has responded to a request for comment regarding a proposed consent decree filed by the U.S. Department of Justice over the school’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ filed a proposed consent degree in federal court with the Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Berkeley campus after the school violated the ADA by failing to make online content accessible to people with disabilities, the DOJ announced this week. “U.C. Berkeley is the home of the Disability Rights/Independent Living Movement,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “We are proud of that distinction and are committed culturally and technically to ensuring that disabled people can equally access Berkeley’s digital access.”

New window: Recognizing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) 2022

November 25, 2022, University of Toronto: hirty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 3 the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day celebrates the now one billion individuals worldwide with lived experience of disability and acknowledges work being done across the globe to remove barriers to their full participation in all areas of society. IDPD champions inclusion as a necessary mindset, urging policy-makers, governments, and citizens to recognize how ableism informs language and behaviour as much as it affects the design of spaces and systems. This year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.” Under this theme, the UN encourages global conversations about how to remove barriers in both public and private sectors for those with lived experience of disability, and what innovations can support full access to employment in the rapidly changing world of work. Such innovations rely on diverse perspectives, a willingness to challenge norms and assumptions, and the participation and expertise of persons with disabilities.

New window: Acropolis in Athens Becomes Accessible to Visually Impaired Visitors

November 25, 2022, Greek Travel Places: Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni recently inaugurated a tactile route as part of a larger program aiming to make the Acropolis monument in Athens accessible to visually impaired visitors. The program, which offers multiple interventions and supportive tools, is headed by the Culture Ministry and the Athens Ephorate of Antiquities in collaboration with the Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece. The Onassis Foundation supports and sponsors the program. “Today we are happy to announce that the Acropolis becomes accessible to yet another group of our fellow citizens with disabilities,” said Mendoni, adding that the program for the visually impaired follows the slope lift operation and a wheelchair friendly routes creation that have offered additional unrestricted access to the site in the last two years.

New window: How We Can Make the Metaverse Mega-Accessible

November 25, 2022, Information Week: The metaverse will be a different experience for everyone: There must be mechanisms in place for people who can’t access it in the same way a neurotypical person or a person without a disability can. We’ve already addressed this when it comes to other technologies, including phones, with TTY devices and settings for people who are hearing impaired. The metaverse will need similar adaptation tools. People who are visually impaired or blind can be offered screen-reading capabilities, audio descriptions, and haptics or vests that let them experience the metaverse through touch. Folks who are hearing impaired or deaf will need some type of captioning system or enhanced visuals that don’t strain their eyes. For people who are neurodiverse, both hardware and software should be flexible enough to be tailored to meet their unique needs.

New window: Cyber-mercenary group targets Android users with fake Trojan VPN apps

November 25, 2022, Indian Express: The Bahamut spyware misuses accessibility services to actively spy on information about calls and chat messages.

New window: Manager of blindness support center, partner identified as pedestrians killed in Hartford crash

November 24, 2022, Trumbull Times: Steve was a fixture of the Oak Hill Community for nearly 20 years, pioneering our digital accessibility program and teaching others how to use adaptive technology, Oak Hill said in a Facebook post Wednesday evening. Steve was a passionate advocate for accessibility and was ever the patient teacher while showing others how to make the world more inclusive for those with visual impairments.

New window: MIA introduces accessibility lanes

November 24, 2022, Airports International: Passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility arriving at Miami International Airport (MIA) from foreign destinations can request assistance in the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) area. If a passenger does not request a wheelchair from their airline but still requires special queueing assistance in the Customs area, they can complete an accessibility lane request form on MIA’s website 48 hours in advance of their arrival. Once they arrive at Customs and provide their name to a Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) employee, they will be directed to the accessibility lane for CBP processing. Submittal of the request form provides access to the special assistance accessibility lane but does not guarantee expedited service. Passengers with limited mobility are also encouraged to request a wheelchair directly from their airline. Additionally, MIA provides sunflower lanyards free of charge to travellers with hidden disabilities. The lanyards act as a discreet indicator to airport employees that the owner may need some extra time during the travel process. Travellers can receive a lanyard through the post by contacting the airport. MIA’s Customs accessibility lane service and sunflower lanyard programme are part of the airport’s award-winning MyMIAccess programme for travellers with disabilities.

New window: L’Oreal Settles Lawsuit Over Website Accessibility To Blind And Visually Impaired

November 24, 2022, HBW Insight: Revlon settled similar litigation previously, while Bumble & Bumble was hit with a putative class action on 10 November in New York federal court alleging the blind and visually impaired are being denied equal access to its website due to design shortcomings.

New window: Venue Operators, Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Have Their Sights on Your Sites

November 23, 2022, JD Supra: It is not hard to see the impact the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) has on the layout of American sports and entertainment venues. Wide ramps, dedicated seating areas, and special elevators have all become recognizable hallmarks of our modern-day Colosseums. What most patrons (and even some venues) do not know, however, is that a venue’s website must also comply with the requirements of the ADA. Not only that, but websites of entertainment companies have recently come under scrutiny for failing to make their websites accessible to disabled individuals. With this current trend in mind, owners of sports or entertainment venues should update their websites to ensure accessibility. Historically, sports and entertainment venues have been the subjects of ADA lawsuits concerning the physical accessibility of the venues. In 2010, the Department of Justice clarified its position the law “reaches the Web sites of entities that provide goods or services that fall within the 12 categories of ‘public accommodations,’ as defined by the statute and regulations.”1 And, in 2022, the DOJ, further clarified that a sports or entertainment venue’s website must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.2 In light of the DOJ’s clarification, the number of ADA lawsuits related to website accessibility has significantly increased. These lawsuits generally include claims that a visually impaired individual is prevented from accessing the full website. Particularly, the lawsuits allege various ADA violations, including that the website lacks: compatibility with screen reader technology, which reads the text of a website aloud; alternative text embedded in images, preventing screen reader technology from audibly describing the images; descriptive link titles for hyperlinks, preventing a screen reader technology from audibly describing where a hyperlink leads; and keyboard navigation, preventing guests from maneuvering throughout the website without a mouse.

New window: Why Startups Should Consider Digital Accessibility

November 23, 2022, Startup Guys: A website for a startup business, or any kind of online business, is not unlike the restaurant in our introduction. Our restaurant features a barrier to entry, steps up from the sidewalk. Your startup business website is similar because it exists online. We do not just walk onto your website. We have to activate some machinery, navigate through a browser, click a few ads, maybe create an account, and so on. But because humans are inherently different, some people will have more difficulty than others accessing your website. If your website is interested in selling things, people being unable to access it is a problem for the proprietor of that business. So, when it comes to doing business, digital accessibility isn’t just about fairness and inclusivity. It’s about broadening your potential customer demographics and making money. Now, suppose someone in a wheelchair wants to enter that restaurant. The person has plenty of money and an appetite, but the owners have not installed ramps. Clearly, everyone loses. The wheelchair-bound would-be diner doesn’t get lunch, and the restaurant doesn’t earn money. This is no good.

New window: UC Berkeley agrees to make online content accessible to settle Justice Department lawsuit

November 23, 2022, Higher Ed Drive: The University of California, Berkeley has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to make its free online content accessible to people with hearing, visual and manual disabilities, the agency announced Monday.

New window: Justice Department Announces Agreements with Universities to Ensure Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities

November 22, 2022, Insight Into Diversity: On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two agreements with New York University (NYU) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) to improve access for individuals with disabilities. NYU’s voluntary, out-of-court agreement with the department will ensure that it complies with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by improving the accessibility of student housing facilities at the university and throughout the New York metropolitan area, affecting more than 4,000 housing units. Per the agreement, NYU will ensure its housing facilities have numerous accessibility options, such as entrances, bathrooms, and signage. The changes stem from a compliance review by the DOJ, which found that NYU student housing facilities violated ADA-accessible design standards. “The ADA requires colleges and universities to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of their services and facilities,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a press release. “We are pleased that NYU has committed to improving accessibility within the University’s student housing facilities and hope that other colleges and universities will follow suit and increase access to their facilities for individuals with disabilities.”

New window: Casey, Scott, Durbin, Duckworth Announce Department of Justice Commitment to Conduct Web Accessibility Report

November 21, 2022, Bob Casey: Today, U.S. Senate Aging Committee Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC), as well as Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) are announcing that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has committed to prepare and submit to Congress a report on web accessibility across the federal government, after the Senators pushed for transparency. In June, Casey led a group of bipartisan colleagues who sent a letter to DOJ urging the Attorney General to restart federally mandated reports on the federal government’s compliance with accessibility standards for people with disabilities. This week, DOJ sent a letter to Senator Casey stating that it is currently preparing a Section 508 report based on the most recent data analysis conducted by the Government Services Administration (GSA) and that they “anticipate that report will be available in the coming weeks.” “We welcome the Department of Justice’s pledge to restart its monitoring of federal websites and technology for compliance with accessibility laws and look forward to receiving a robust, comprehensive report in the coming weeks. Earlier this year, we called on the Department of Justice to take immediate steps to issue these statutorily required biennial reports that provide taxpayers with transparent information about the accessibility of federal technology for older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans. Despite legal requirements, these reports had not been issued for a decade, leaving Congress without critical information about how the federal government addresses accessibility of its technology. We have a long way to go to make all aspects of the federal government accessible for older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans, but getting this information from DOJ is a critical first step,” Senators Casey, Scott, Durbin, and Duckworth said in a joint statement.

New window: Department of Justice Plans to Amend ADA Title II Regulations for Websites

November 21, 2022, JD Supra: The U.S. Department of Justice has announced plans “to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend its Title II ADA regulation to provide technical standards to assist public entities in complying with their existing obligations to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.” The DOJ announced the NPRM will be published in April 2023 with a comment period until June 2023.

New window: How to Conduct a Website Accessibility Audit?

November 21, 2022, Publicist Paper: An accessibility audit is a professional evaluation of how well your website, mobile app, and other digital resources meet WCAG technical standards. WCAG stands for the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”, which contains many recommendations and rules aimed at making content accessible for a wide range of users. Including not only people with visual impairments, but also those with hearing impairments, physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and others. WCAG has several levels of compliance. We recommend focusing on the documents collected in the second issue of this guideline – WCAG 2.0.

New window: A Study Claimed AirPods Can Work as Inexpensive Hearing Aids

November 21, 2022, The Swaddle: New research says that wireless earphones perform nearly as well as hearing aids, potentially providing a relatively more affordable alternative to expensive assistive technology for individuals with mild to moderate hearing impairment. Apple’s Live Listen technology that amplifies sound is a feature that works similarly to a personal sound amplification product (PSAP), noted the researchers. While the recent study rightly highlights the challenges in accessing assistive technology, it also studies the viability of high-end wireless earphones, specifically AirPods, as an alternative to professional hearing aids. This raises an important question: Can commercial products, such as wireless earphones, be an adequate replacement for medically-supervised hearing aid technology or are they limited to being a technocratic solution to a global problem that only a few can access? Hearing loss is a common disability that affects 20% of the global population. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, around 2.5 billion people will have some degree of hearing loss, with at least 700 million people requiring hearing rehabilitation. An editorial published in The Lancet Global Health stated that most people with hearing loss do not seek treatment. The barriers fuelling this neglect include limited awareness, high costs and social stigma. In the United States, it was estimated that 75% of people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids. Uncorrected hearing loss can severely hamper communication, leading to negative impacts on mental health, social isolation and might also increase the risk of dementia.
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